I don't mind 'shit' – but I'm not lazy
A lot of the show was brewed in conversations during working on the much-hated Eleven O’clock Show. The situations, and some of the language (‘clunge’, for example) were the sorts of things we'd laugh about but not dare use ourselves. Well, until now…
Was starting your own production company, Bwark, a means to an end to getting the show made, or was it a happy coincidence?
We started the company because we were producers who had got a bit bored and wanted a new challenge. We had a dream of the office being full of creative people all buzzing away doing their different things, with us supporting them and helping them through the world of commissioning which we knew. Writing our own script was very much just scratching an itch, we thought we'd try it, everyone would hate it, and we'd go back to producing and at least never wondering.
Does Bwark accept scripts?
We used to. Helping new writers is something I feel quite strongly about, but I've had a bad experience recently and we're reviewing it. So at the moment, sadly, no.
Is the show based on reality?
Both Damon and I try to draw the characters from real life, I identify with Will. The drug-taking wasn't necessarily what eating some drugs does to all people, it's what it did to me and would do to someone who was hypochondriacal, had OCD and is as bordeline a maniacal control freak as I am.
What is the writing process like?
We try to treat it like a job as much as possible. We do five or six day weeks and try to do 10am-7pm days, with a break for lunch, for about five months. And obviously as it gets closer to the deadlines we put in as many hours as necessary. We shut ourselves in a tiny writing room and just grind it out, even if we aren't 'feeling it'. I'd love to say that scenes come fully formed in a moment of inspiration, but they don't. We do about 14 or 15 rewrites on all the scripts. We put in a lot a hours which is why the only thing i hate being called is 'lazy'. I don't mind shit or useless, but we aren't lazy.
Do you feel your time working as a commissioning editor really helped or hindered in writing the scripts?
I think it can only have helped, although there's no real way of knowing. For one, working so closely with Sam and Jesse who write Peep Show was inspirational and also just getting to see a lot of good scripts helps you know what standard you have to achieve.
My first day on the job, I had to read the scripts for Phoenix Nights, and I remember being blown away by how packed full of jokes they were, visual gags, stuff that no-one would ever know from watching the show, stage directions etc. It made me realise how much work people put in.
You’ve been a stand-up in your time as well – did any of those experiences feed into the show?
I think I should set the record straight and say I was a pretty terrible open spot who managed to get a few paid gigs where I died on my arse.
And I was very young, so all my act was puns basically, so no.
What being around stand-up did do for me though was let me know that comedy was what I wanted to do for a living, somehow. Stand-up is my first love really, and I'm lucky to have seen some incredibly brilliant people over the years, which makes me all the more embarrassed when people describe me as a stand-up. I wasn't.
What was it like for you on the first day of filming Series One?
Weird. I was staying at my mum's and we were shooting at Thorpe Park, where I'd spent many days as a teenager myself. Also worrying. I think in series one we just wanted to make something we were proud of, so every decision seemed to be life or death.
How long does it generally take to make an episode?
Nearly a year to make a series is about right now.
Did you have any idea it would become as successful as it has?
No. None at all.
How does that feel?
Humbling. Humbling that people like the show enough to tell their friends about it, or say that it made them laugh after a bad day. Nice, and humbling, and I'm extremely grateful that people 'get' what we were trying to do.
You’re currently filming the movie – on location in Crete – and for a while there, it was touch and go whether Simon Bird would be involved. Would you have carried on without him?
To clarify, at no point did Simon say he didn't want to do the film. The way every negotiation from the dawn of time has worked is that you offer some money, the agent asks for more money, and you settle at a figure in the middle.
This happened with all the boys, as we'd expect, so it could have been a story about any of them. They are all getting the same, and that's as they'd all want it. They are a tight bunch, good friends, and no, we wouldn't have carried on without any of them but it was never a question.
Have you got any other projects on the go at the moment?
No. Any offers gratefully received, please don't forget about me.
Finally, can we look forward to a fourth series?
it's up to you, but probably not. You could look forward to the film like everyone in the press is, by saying 'it'll be shit' if you like.
- The Inbetweeners is currently on at 10pm on Mondays on E4. Or click here to watch on demand.
Published: 6 Oct 2010